Trial by secret jury

The first annual journalism awards drew strong criticism from the media when a judge won the prize for the very category he was adjudicating.

This time, during the second annual journalism awards, the government was careful not to repeat last year’s howler. And they managed. How? By concealing the identity of the jury. The public – and that includes the media – did not, and still does not, know who this year’s judges were. In fact, it appears that the judges themselves do not know who their fellow judges were!

Being cautious is one thing. But being secretive is quite another matter, especially when we’re supposedly honouring our journalists. And when we’re ostensibly celebrating freedom of information.

Stop press!

The second Annual Journalism Awards will take place on 3rd May, coinciding with World Press Day. Good.

But, like last year, the government is organizing the event. Not good.

It is in the media’s interest to decide, without government interference, how to recognize and reward good journalism. And, equally important, who to recognize and reward. So the media should be organizing this important event.

When the government is involved, the awards lose credibility. And the whole process – from defining categories to selecting judges to awarding prizes – will be questioned.

For the sake of a vibrant media, the media should not permit the government to organize the second Annual Journalism Awards. Instead, they should organize the Bhutan Media Foundation to conduct the awards.

If time is the issue, just postpone the event. It does not necessarily have to coincide with World Press Day.

The government, if they so wish, could go ahead, but with other celebrations, to mark World Press Day celebrations.